New Delhi : Political parties and women outfits on Wednesday intensified pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sack minister of state for chemicals and fertilizer Nihal Chand Meghwal (43) for an alleged gang rape in Jaipur in 2011, even as the victim urged Modi to give her “two minutes” to explain her torment. The plea for a hearing was made through the media: the victim also said she is being alternately threatened and lured with a job offer to drop the case.
A Jaipur court last week issued summons to the Minister and other 16 accomplices to appear before it on August 20 on a complaint lodged by the 24-year married victim. He is the only representative of Rajasthan in the Union Ministry.
The women wing of the Congress on Wednesday held a demonstration before the BJP headquarters and party spokesman Raj Babbar played up the victim’s appeal for a “two minute” hearing from the PM. He said Modi has been talking about zero tolerance to crime against women and the least he could do was to give a hearing. He also asked Modi to respond as to the sexual torture of the victim by one of his ministers.
The Mahila Congress had a similar take. “This is the real face of the Modi govern-ment, all their claims sound hollow. Where is the zero tolerance to crimes against women that the PM boasted about,” asked president Shobha Oza. She said Meghwal must resign on moral grounds because as a minister he can influence the probe.”
The media kept hounding Meghwal all day for his reaction, but he kept wriggling out with a cryptic “no comment” until he flared up with a reporter and said, “Why should I resign from the post? You have not elected me. It is a false case and the court has already exonerated me.”
The BJP, however, counter attacked the Congress for politicizing the issue.
It charged that the case was registered in 2011 and it had been thoroughly investigated at a time when the Congress was in power in Rajasthan. ‘‘The case was exhaustively probed by the previous Ashok Gehlot government and neither the police nor the courts upheld any charges against him or the others named for sexually exploiting the victim,” said BJP leader Rajendra Rathore in Jaipur.
BJP spokesman Siddharth Nath Singh went a step further to point out that the case was registered when the Gehlot government was in power and they have submitted a closure report. “So Congress should ask Gehlot about it,” he said.
In 2012, the Rajasthan Police had closed the case saying the charges were false. The woman had then approached a district court which too dismissed the charges. She filed a review petition, following which an additional district judge issued notices to Meghwal and 16 others last week. The victim has alleged that her husband, an aspiring politician and property dealer, had forced her to have sex with powerful and connected men in and around Jaipur. Her lawyers say that her police complaint resulted in a deliberately shoddy investigation by cops who protected the influential people she had named and a Jaipur court accepted the police request to close the case, without even recording her testimony.